Money set aside by the government to fund primary school kitchen upgrades ahead of the September School Meals Plan is beginning to trickle down into the market.
Derby Council this week became the latest local authority to reveal its budget for the project, which is expected to mark the single biggest investment in catering equipment from the education sector by the time all works are complete.
Councillor Kevin Gillott, Derby Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, confirmed it had been handed almost £2m to help local schools handle the ramp-up in hot meals that will need to be produced and served.
“We have received £1.8m towards the cost of enlarging kitchens and providing equipment like cookers, freezers and fridges to cope with the extra demand,” he revealed.
Across Derbyshire, catering staff dish up 7,570 meals a day to children at infant and primary schools.
This will increase by up to 8,000 meals a day under these new proposals, prompting the need for new equipment, Gillott said.
The £1.8m that Derby Council has received will be spent entirely on new kitchen equipment. However, it will also separately invest in additional staff to assist with the increased meals service.
Gillot said that Derby Council plans to recruit an extra 130 catering assistants to help serve free meals to infant school pupils, with the hiring process set to get underway before the end of the month.
The government recently announced that it has ear-marked £150m to help schools prepare for the initiative. From September, all year-one and year-two primary school children will be entitled to a free hot meal.
A few councils have now revealed how much they have been given to spend on improving kitchens.
They vary from Essex County Council with £3.1m to Swindon County Council with £360,000.